JOEL - In general religious terms the word "priesthood" refers to the office of a priest or to a group of priests such as in the Catholic religion. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the term has four meanings:
1. It is the power of God delegated to men on earth to act for the well-being of all mankind.
2. It is authority that gives men the right to act in the name of God and to perform ordinances for the blessing of His children.
3. It is the right and responsibility to preside within the organized structure of the Church.
4. It is a term often used when referring generally to the men of the Church.
Priesthood power may be exercised only under the direction of the one holding the right, or keys, to authorize its use. Priesthood embraces all forms of God's power. It is the power by which the cosmos was ordered, universes and worlds were organized, and the elements in all their varied structures and relationships were put into place. Through the priesthood, God governs all things. By this power, the gospel is preached and understood, and the ordinances of exaltation for both the living and the dead are performed. Priesthood is the channel for obtaining revelation, the channel through which God reveals himself and his glory, his intents and his purposes, to mankind: The priesthood holds "the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God". It conveys the mind and will of God; and, when employed by his servants on his errand, it functions as if by the Lord's own mouth and hand. Joseph Smith defined priesthood as "an everlasting principle, [which has] existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years,…holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, [the Melchizedek] Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy" (TPJS, pp. 157, 322).
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